Monday, March 30, 2009

Free Book Stimulation Plan

Wanda Jewell has a problem. After serving nearly 20 years as Executive Director of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) she is overrun with books. All kind of books; finished copies and galleys, advance reading copies, advance reader editions, paperback and hardbound, slip-covered and not, limited editions, signed and unsigned, personalized and not. Books here, books there, books, books, everywhere…and each publishing season brings more. It was while she was contemplating the management of her extensive personal library, (with the television news on in the background) that Wanda had her “Aha!” moment: How to weed her collection and support her southern indie bookstores at the same time? In a flash of Obama-induced inspiration, Wanda created her own Free Book Stimulus Plan.

Buying a book at your local indie bookstore doesn’t just stimulate your reading, it stimulates your local economy. Shopping local is an investment in your own neighborhood and good karma all around. And because you can get a free book!

Hoping to stimulate sales at indie bookstores, Wanda is dismantling her personal library and offering it to shoppers one free book at a time. Beginning April 2nd, readers who purchase a book at a SIBA-member indie store and send her a copy of the receipt will receive book from her collection completely free of charge. Visit for details and a list of participating bookstores. Print out the request form on the site and mail it in with a copy of your store receipt (the receipt must include the name of the store). That is all you have to do to get a free book from Wanda’s personal library.

This offer is open only to consumers living in the contiguous United States. Completed form with receipt must be mailed to Free Book, 3806 Yale Ave., Columbia, SC 29205 and only while supplies last. Consider this a challenge to deplete Wanda’s library – she doubts it can be done!

Here is all that Wanda asks in return. Visit; Pass it on. Post to blog. Pay it forward. Print to press. Play the 411. Shout it out. Share the news. Spread the word. Soapbox it up. Tweet & Retweet. Facebook & Myspace. Get the word out. Free Book for Shopping Southern Indie Bookstores! Increase your karmic footprint!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A MATTER OF JUSTICE by Charles Todd (William Morrow)

It was a real pleasure to hear Caroline and Charles Todd talk about their latest collaboration last month when they visited McIntyre's Fine Books and Bookends at Fearrington Village.

"Be sure your sin will find you out." Two soldiers in 1900 Africa would have done well to heed Moses' dire prophecy. When payback comes twenty years later, it is up to Inspector Ian Rutledge to make sense of the bizarre murder of a London businessman. Suspects and motives abound in the case, from the usual to the village police inspector. Rutledge must, as always, discover the truth while dealing with his own demons—both from the Scottish sergeant who lingers in his mind after the Great War and his current superior, Chief Superintendent Bowles.

I've been a Charles Todd fan since I read Legacy of the Dead. A Matter of Justice is one of the best in this outstanding series.

A NIGHT AT THE OPERATION by Jeffrey Cohen (Berkley)

It's a good thing Elliot Freed owns and operates an all comedy movie theater because his personal life is full of stress and danger. In this third outing, Elliott's former wife (and current love interest) is missing, she's accused of murdering a patient, his theater is flooding (with complications), and one-third of his employees (okay, there are only three anyway!) is threatening to quit. As Elliott tries to solve these problems in order of priority—locating Sharon is first on the list, more challenges erupt to keep him busy and the reader involved.

Cohen's characters are well drawn and compelling and his humor seems effortless. I enjoy this series—and recommend it whenever possible.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lambda Finalists

Thanks to Neil Plakcy for posting this on the Dorothy-L list-serv here's a list of the finalists for the Lambda Awards in mystery:

The Fisher Boy, Stephen Anable, Poisoned Pen Press
Sundowner Ubuntu, Anthony Bidulka, Insomniac Press
Mahu Fire, Neil Plakcy, Alyson Books
First You Fall, Scott Sherman, Alyson Books
Spider Season, John Morgan Wilson, St. Martin's Press

Blind Faith, Diane and Jacob Anderson-Minshall, Bold Strokes Books
Whacked, Josie Gordon, Bella Books
Sweet Poison, Ellen Hart, St. Martin's Press
Losers Weepers, Jessica Thomas, Bella Books
Calling the Dead, Ali Vali, Bold Strokes Books

Congratulations to all!

THE BODIES LEFT BEHIND by Jeffrey Deaver (Simon & Schuster)

It started with a 911 call that had only one word, “this,” before being cut off. Still, Sheriff Tom Dahl thought it important enough to send a deputy to the location of the call— an isolated cabin near Lake Mondac, one of Kenosha county’s numerous lakes. Dahl decides to sends his best, Deputy Brynn McKensie.

And so starts Jeffrey Deaver’s latest thriller. Brynn finds two bodies and just evades becoming the third victim. As Brynn escapes, she notices that someone has shot out several of tires on the killer’s car. Brynn realizes there must be someone else hiding out in the woods. She locates the third person, a woman named Michelle, a guest of the homeowners. Now it becomes a race against time for the two women to escape and get help before the two killers eliminate the last witnesses.

Deaver is at his best at keeping you at the edge of your seat, always providing enough twists and surprises to make sure you are paying attention.

—Steve Bank

NEMESIS, THE FINAL CASE OF ELIOT NESS by William Bernhardt (Ballantine Books)

Steve Bank at the Cary (NC) Library has recently caught "review fever," so I asked him to share some of his favorites.

Al Capone is in jail. It is 1935 and Eliot Ness is still fighting illegal bootlegging, even though Prohibition has ended. Anxious to leave Chicago and fight crime in a new venue, he accepts when the mayor of Cleveland offers Ness the position of safety. He soon finds himself fighting several battles simultaneously: The Cleveland Police force is corrupt, illegal booze is still flowing and there are many young men out of work and looking for trouble.

Ness doesn’t realize he will soon be enmeshed in one of the nation’s most horrific crimes—a serial killer is loose in Cleveland. He wants nothing to do with the investigation, figuring this is for homicide detectives, but the public knows the great Eliot Ness is in Cleveland and they demand that he engage himself in the hunt for the killer. The mayor and the chief of police beg Ness to get involved . He accepts and is teamed with the best homicide detective in the city, Peter Merylo.

There are no clues, no leads, but dismembered bodies keep showing up in the poorest parts of Cleveland. The only clue is that the bodies seem to have been dissected with the skill of a surgeon or at least someone with a good medical background. Identifying the bodies is difficult because different body parts are found in different locations!
Although this is a spine-tingling novel,it is based on actual events that occurred in Cleveland in the mid-thirties. Bernhardt has done extensive research in order to tell the story as historical fiction. For those who enjoy the gruesome pursuit of some of our most heinous criminals, Nemesis will keep you enthralled.

—Steve Bank

Many Bloody Returns, edited by Charlaine Harris & Toni L.P. Kelner (Ace Trade)

Malaika King Albrecht often brings her daughters with her to our writing group. One day she mentioned that Amani, the older, loved the Twilight series. I suggested that she might enjoy this new short story anthology. I was right! Here's what Amani said about Many Bloody Returns.

Each of the 13 stories in this anthology contains some sort of supernatural element and a birthday theme. I found myself wanting to look up the authors after each story. I liked the uncertainty of what I would read next, although once I got into a story, I didn’t want it to end. The theme that tied these stories together was a novel idea because vampires and birthdays are not normally associated with each other. Though this was a fun read, I wouldn’t recommend it for readers under thirteen years old. Amani Albrecht 6th grade

The stories and authors were:

"Dracula Night" by Charlaine Harris
"The Mournful Cry of Owls" by Christopher Golden
"I Was a Teenage Vampire" by Bill Crider
"Twilight" by Kelley Armstrong
"It's My Birthday, Too" by Jim Butcher
"Grave-Robbed" by P.N. Elrod
"The First Day of the Rest of Your Life" by Rachel Caine
"The Witch and the Wicked" by Jeanne C. Stein
"Blood Wrapped" by Tanya Huff
"The Wish" by Carolyn Haines
"Fire and Ice and Linguini for Two" by Tate Hallaway
"Vampire Hours" by Elaine Viets
"How Stella Got her Grave Back" by Toni L.P. Kelner

DEATH OF A WITCH by M. C. Beaton (Grand Central Publishing)

This is the 24th Hamish Macbeth mystery so by this time, we know quite a bit about Hamish. In some of the earlier Macbeth mysteries, the problems and Hamish’s actions in solving them are somewhat predictable. I’m happy to note that this mystery is much more complex and therefore much more interesting.

While the usual sub-plots abound, they are all cleverly related to the main mystery. As in most Hamish Macbeth novels, we know who will be the major victim—simply by the title. In this one, we also follow the challenges to Hamish’s love life that are caused both by the assorted women involved and by Hamish himself.

Those of us who know Lochdubh will be happy to see that things are alive (at least some of the characters are) and well and Beaton’s description of life in the small Scottish village in the midst of winter takes us there with all the feelings of cold and isolation.

Since the “witch” in the novel has made enemies of almost everyone in Lochdubh, the number of suspects is many. Despite the challenges placed on Hamish by his immediate supervisor, in the end, Hamish succeeds.

For those who enjoy a light-hearted mystery, this is one of M.C. Beaton’s best.

—Stephen Hennessey

A DEADLY SILVER SEA by Bob Morris (St. Martin's Minotaur)

My friend Stephen Hennessey has agreed to help review some books for Meritorious Mysteries. He's a former teacher and avid mystery reader. Welcome aboard, Stephen!

This was an excellent mystery. It was entirely different from the earlier ones in that the reader knew right from the start who were some of the criminals—but not all of them. It involved the high-jacking of an ultra-luxury small cruise ship. Not until well into the novel did we know the primary reason for the high-jacking.

The character of Zachary Chastayn was complex and very interesting. Characters and readers alike were kept in a state of high tension as we awaited the birth of Zach and Barbara’s baby on the ill-fated liner. Those of us who love to cruise will have anxious thoughts if we see crew members behaving strangely as they did on this ship. It all leads to an excellent conclusion. The plot was complex but not too complex for the reader to follow it with ease.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and look forward to reading more in this series.

OOLONG DEAD by Laura Childs (Berkley)

My friend Jane Dewitt looks for the Mystery Indigo Tea Shop every time she visits Charleston, South Carolina. Who better could I ask to tell you about one of her favorite series.

Theodosia Browning is asked to host a lavish tea for the Charleston Opera. During a race at the high society hunt club weekend in Charleston, the body of lovely Abby Davis (Theodosia’s arch enemy and the sister of her old flame Jory) is discovered. The following investigation takes Theodosia from the bubbling teapots in her shop to the opera house, to an elegant formal tea in an historic mansion to the low country thicket, and a darkened theatre. The ending was tied up quite nicely!

Like the previous nine in the series, this is a quick, entertaining read. It is delightful to meet again the charming characters from previous books: Dayton, Haley, Delaine, Det Burt Tidwell and of course Earl Grey. The Tea Shop is as quaint as ever, however as business it just won’t work. Somehow you don’t care as it is such beautiful little tea shop. The adventures in the low country thicket and the darkened theatre are improbable, exciting and fun.

Tea Shop mystery lovers will enjoy this one—along with the recipes and tea time tips.

Killer Jobs

Everybody thinks their job is a killer. The folks we talked about at the Cary Library recently have found their jobs really do lead them to killers. Check the handout list to see if you've read any (or all) of these authors.